questions about cable cutting, aTV Flash, media centers and more

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Sill, Feb 20, 2016.

  1. Sill macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    My goals:

    Pull in broadcast HD via an in-home antenna to a tuner, and have scheduling and DVR available.
    Avoid the cable card if possible.
    Serve movies to my aTV3 connected to a non-DLNA plasma.
    Get the best sound of the end result.

    Now I need to find the best path to that. I'm hoping I can get some advice here. I have a single computer going to a single display, no need to stream to iDevices, transcode, view on a plane, view in a hotel, or any of that. This is a self contained single family viewing area.

    I'd like to keep my aTV3 if I can. Although it would be nice to get the aTV4 for games and other apps, is there any reason why I would get that instead of keeping my aTV3? I guess I've been under a rock but I just found out about Infuse and aTV Flash. Allegedly, aTV Flash can be installed on the 2nd gen aTV (of which gen 3 is a revision), but how does it work? the FlashCore site is strong on listing features but has ZERO info on installing or using aTV Flash.

    I'm going to get a 3TB Time Capsule soon so I can upgrade to 11ac and keep some files on it instead of my late-2012 iMac. I think my ancient 11g Express is part of my current problems, which include dropouts and buffering while serving movies from my iMac to my aTV3 which are all in the same room.

    A few other guys here sold me on getting an HDHomeRun, though I still have to decide which one. I'm not interested in going cable card, but are the non-cable card models able to receive any in-the-clear HD signals? Which one is "best"?

    Eventually I'd like to tie the whole thing to Sonos, but right now I have a Sony 7.1 receiver running in 3.1 mode. It isn't TrueHD, but neither is Sonos. Plus Sonos can't handle DTS, and if you want even 5.1 they force you to have their lackluster PlayBar instead of a true 5.1 speaker setup.
  2. d21mike, Feb 20, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016

    d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    There are a lot of options. But if part of it is that you want to watch "Live TV" then I recommend what I do.

    1. HDHomeRun Connect or Extend for OTA Antenna in the US. The difference is the Extend can transcode from MPEG2 to MPEG4. But my guess you will be fine with Connect (cheaper) based on your comments. I have the 2x Prime (CableCard) because I want more then just OTA Channels and I wanted 6 turners for DVR and Live TV.

    2. Get the Apple TV 4 (32gb would work for your needs). However, you did say you wanted to play games so based on how much you could consider the 64gb. The ATV 4 is needed for the App Store.

    3. For Live TV and the DVR (still in beta) I would get the Channels App ($24.95). We use this App many hours per day on multiple TV's. It is one of the most expensive Apps in the App Store but it is a one time cost is well worth the price.

    4. HDHomeRun DVR (Beta). This is a Network DVR that you share over the network much like the HDHomeRun Connect Turner. You can run the DVR Service on a number of devices. Like a number of NAS or Windows or MAC etc. I choose to get the WDMyCloud NAS Single Drive Personal Model and works for my needs. They start at $129 for a 2tb model and go up from there. I chose the 4tb model for $159. Simply a small box you connect to your Router (or switch which is connected to the router). Also, early access to the DVR Beta is $60 and that includes 1 year ($30) of TV Guide Data which is needed going forward for the DVR Service. But this is really for "early adopters" that like to play.

    With this setup I have 8 TV's with the only thing connected to them is the Apple TV 4's. I have the same UI, Remote and access on all of them.

    You said you only have 1 TV now in a central area but with this setup you could add more later in the other parts of the house simply by add more Apple TV 4's and TV's of course.

    You mentioned getting a Airport Time Capsule to store local videos etc. This is fine but maybe a larger WDMyCloud Model would solve this as well. The Infuse App which requires the Apple TV 4 as well would be a nice companion App to the Channels App for non DVR type Videos but there are other options.

    For the central area you mentioned you should be hard wired ethernet for all of the devices. Use WiFI 802.11AC only where you can not run Ethernet.

    Again, this is my personal recommendation and what I and others I know are doing. The DVR is really a Beta but will be a great add-on to the HDHomeRun / Channels Live TV. But you may want to get the other pieces in place before starting on that. We could be 90 days away before it is more end user friendly.
  3. Albert2000 macrumors newbie


    Jan 1, 2016
    I use a TiVo Roamio DVR box and a Weinguard flat indoor antenna mounted near the ceiling, plus (for now) an Apple TV 3. The TiVo box costs around $50 and the TiVo service (worth it to me) $15 a month - which gives you channel guides and flexible DVR capability much like a cable TV box with DVR. I tried an omnidirectional Weinguard antenna in the attic (I am in a condo) but have better reception with the flat plate unit indoors. I added a supplemental RF amplifier to the one that came with the antenna and get very good results. Your results will depend upon distance from broadcast antennas and your location including height. I was finding lots of problems watching Netflix on the Apple 3 (crashes, etc.) which is not the case with the Netflix application on the TiVo box.
  4. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    d21Mike is right on target with a great recommendation. My setup is very similar, but instead of the HDHomeRun receiver, I use the Tablo receiver.

    Like HDHomeRun, Tablo is an OTA receiver. You plug in a coax cable from an OTA antenna into the input, and then into your router via the ethernet port. The primary difference is that Tablo has DVR capabilities built-in, so you also plug in an external hard drive into the Tablo box. It becomes a tuner/DVR accessibly by any client in your network (and while you don't care, even remotely). Tablo does not require a NAS or running computer as HDHomeRun does (for its DVR capability). Otherwise, they are very similar.

    Tablo has not yet released an AppleTV 4 app, it is expected in the Spring. Right now, to view via an ATV you can either use an iPhone and AirPlay OR use a Plex App that works surprisingly well. Tablo is good now. Once the ATV app is released, Tablo will be outstanding. (Note: There are already Tablo apps for FireTV and Roku which I feel are average at best. I am hoping and expecting much more for the ATV, and the video they've shared, if accurate, looks outstanding.)

    As you can see by what both d21Mike and I have said, there is no perfect solution, and this space is currently in the midst of change.
  5. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    Is the transcoding important? Also, can the Connect or Prime grab HD channels in the clear off the cable system? Thats a big plus for us if any of them can.

    I just thought it would be a neat thing to show off the 4 to the occasional guest but really we have zero time for that so its not a deciding thing.

    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2016 ---
    I looked at the Tablo briefly. It seems like a better, more all in one widget combining the things I want, but if they don't have an app and Channels won't work with it, I'll pass for now. I will never go near Plex again.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2016 ---
    I'd like to stay away from a $15/month encumbrance if possible. If that $30/year Mike mentioned for the SD DVR stays true when they get to 1.0, I'd definitely pay that. But $180/year? No way. I'm trying to pare this monthly bill down to the bone and get as much as we can for the money.

    I'm really surprised to hear you had better luck with the plate antenna. Thats the opposite of everything I've experienced. Typically plates just don't have enough gain up front. How much gain does your amp give you, and is it powered or just an inline?
  6. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    I understand that you don't want to bother with Plex and that you are concerned that there is no Tablo ATV app currently. But a few things...

    1) There will be an app very shortly. They showed the app recently, and I would be surprised if it is not out by May. Of course, nothing is for sure.

    2) There are apps for other platforms if it is absolutely required from day 1. My son uses a Roku Stick on his bedroom TV and the Tablo app works well for him.

    3) Airplay works very very well with Tablo. So basically, you use the iPhone/iPad app, then transfer up to the AppleTV.

    4) Keep in mind that the HDHomeRun DVR app is still in beta, and the only way to currently use it is via a pre-purchase option. If I am not mistaken, it is already ~4 months late as I believe it was expected in Fall 2015.

    I am not trying to sell Tablo over HDHomeRun. In fact, the Channels app using HDHomeRun looks fantastic. If the DVR functionality is as good, then it will definitely be a fantastic solution.

    But the fact is that neither HDHR/Channels NOR Tablo are 100% perfect or complete currently.
  7. d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    Transcoding of MPEG2 to MPEG4 is NOT important to me because the Apple TV 4 has no problem playing MPEG2. And yes both the Connect and Prime (and I assume Extend) can except ClearQAM.
    I am on Version FIOS and I have actually tested CleanQAM with my Prime. I simply pulled the CableCard and then scanned the channels.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2016 ---
    Yes. You are not mistaken. There are 2 issues to consider.

    1. SiliconDust (SD) HDHomeRun DVR Beta along with the SD View Clients are still in Beta and yes "at least" 4 months behind. And I think they still have a long way to go for all of the clients. But the DVR Service and Back End may not be that far off. And the Channels DVR Client only needs the DVR Service and Backend.
    2. Channels DVR Beta (not developed by SD). Just started and only includes DVR Recordings Playback. But the Live TV and the Recordings Playback work extremely well. They are only held back because they are waiting for the HDHomeRun DVR API's to be completed by SD HDHomeRun DVR Developers.

    This is from the Channels Developers about the Channels DVR Beta. Beta Started on 2/17/2016 but development has been going on for a couple months. Channels Web Site

    For now, the following features are available in the beta: (and I can say they work great).

    - browse all recorded shows via the new Recordings tab
    - watch episodes, with all the same pause/jump/seek/scrub features you already enjoy
    - edit or delete recording rules for existing shows

    The following features are ready in Channels, but will not exist until the RECORD engine implements the underlying functionality:

    - deleting a recording
    - marking a recording as watched or unwatched
    - progress bars on partially watched recordings
    - resuming a recording from where you left off

    The following features are NOT currently available in the beta:

    - searching for programs
    - recording rule creation

    Again, there is no ability to create recording rules yet; we recommend you do so with Kodi for now.
  8. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    Long story short...

    Tablo is ahead of HDHomeRun/Channels relative to DVR capabilities

    HDHomeRun/Channels is ahead of Tablo relative to the AppleTV 4 app

    They will both offer family similar capabilities soon, likely in the coming 2-3 months, so the main consideration is whether you like the tuner+USB HD model Tablo uses or the Tuner+PC (or NAS) model that HDHomeRun uses


    Tablo seems to be a bit more expensive, but they have 2 and 4 tuner models. HDHomeRun only has 2 tuner models.

    Cost also comes down to what you already have. If you have a computer always running, then the HDHomeRun requirement if a computer or NAS is not important so would be less upfront.

    But relative to saving on cable/satellite, either is cost effective.
  9. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    In shopping I've seen drives marketed as "external drive", "personal cloud", and "network attached storage". I'm not clear what the distinction is, or if there even is one. It seems to me that any external that can be connected directly to a LAN via ethernet or Wifi would be an "NAS". (FWIW, the term "Personal Cloud" just seems to be marketing hype, or at the very most just a purpose any drive could be put to, i.e. using your home pc as a Plex Server turns that machine into your "personal cloud", since you can serve media to devices all over the place)
    Just in case I'm not seeing something obvious here, would the Time Capsule fit the bill for a proper NAS for my purposes, either with HDHomeRun DVR or ChannelsDVR?
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2016 ---
    So you're using the iDevice as a pipe, or do you mean you transfer the video to the iDevice and then use that to serve the aTV?
  10. jdag, Feb 20, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016

    jdag macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2012
    NAS = Network Attached Storage, attaches to a router via ethernet, not to a computer. A NAS is really a full-fledged computer with a processor and memory, although generally an low powered computer. The advantage of a NAS is that aside from hosting multiple disks for large storage capacity, many can run software (backup software, surveillance software, media software like Plex, etc.).

    DAS = Direct Attached Storage, attaches to a computer, usually via USB but possibly also via FireWire or Thunderbolt. Most of what we use would be considered a DAS, such as typical USB drives and flash drives/memory sticks. DAS devices are storage only, they need a computer as the brain. A DAS can be a multi-bay enclosure, or a typical external/portable drive. Even a flash drive.

    External Drives = A form of a DAS and what most "non-techie" people would term a portable hard drive. External drives normally are powered with an adapter and "desktop" size (use 3-1/2" disks), or smaller "portable" drives (use 2-1/2" laptop sized disks) that are powered directly from the computer's USB port.

    You are correct that "personal cloud" is marketing hype, a method of getting to your home hard drive from outside. This can be accomplished in many ways and is not something unique to any hard drive.

    Can you use a Time Capsule as a NAS drive? Yes. It is a NAS drive by definition. However, the intended use of the Time Capsule is as a backup device. I have not tried using it as a "normal hard drive", but would suspect it is relatively slow. I also don't know if it can be a target for the HDHomeRun storage. And if it can be, it would still require a computer to be running the HDHomeRun software.

    What might be of interest to you is using the USB port on the Time Capsule. You can hook up a virtually any USB storage device and have it set up as a network drive. In effect, it is like using a standard USB drive as a NAS (albeit, "dumb" storage, so you'd still need a computer to run the HDHomeRun software).
  11. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    Too bad it isn't equipped with a Thunderbolt port.

    So then it seems the best thing to do would be to get a real NAS and attached it to the LAN port on the Time Capsule (or maybe just get a standard Airport Extreme and forget the Time Capsule)?
  12. d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    Yes. For the purpose of this discussion. "jag" explained things very well. I would just add that a Time Capsule is a NAS but limited to "File Sharing". A NAS like we have been talking about is a full computer normally running Linux. So of course it can be a File Server for File Sharing but more important is that it is an "Application Server". Again, as a full computer you could use it for many things. File Server, Mail Server, FTP Server, Web Server, DNS, DHCP and per this conversation it can be use as a DVR Server which is simply an Application running on a computer.
    However, lets say you want to use a more tradition computer as a DVR Server. Like say a Windows Machine or a MAC. Then you could store your Recording on that computer or an attached external drive via USB or on File Server like the Time Capsule.
    With all that said I would get a "true" NAS Device that meets you needs. Also, you could get more then 1 NAS Devices to handle different tasks and then if you wanted you move things from 1 NAS to another. SD HDHomeRun has said in the announcement that you could use multiple DVR Servers running on multiple NAS and/or a Windows Machine or a Mac etc. (but you can not do it in the beta). Again, you can buy a low cost NAS for about $129 or one in the $1,000's. Really depends on what you requirements are. The HDHomeRun DVR will work find on the $129 WDMyCould model which has 2TB of Storage which would be larger then most Cable Company DVR's available. My prior FIOS Media Server with 6 Turners had a 2tb Drive that I never got close to filling up. And that was the most current one available.
  13. Albert2000 macrumors newbie


    Jan 1, 2016
    I agree - I expected the more expensive omni-directional antenna in the attic to do better than the flat plate unit on the wall. I use a 15 dB amplifier in addition to the amplifier supplied with the Weinguard flat plate. I used the same amplifier with the omni antenna which came with its own amp. (Both antennas used two 15 dB amps in series to get the best results. The late plate just got better reception- for me.)

    Regarding TV - what broke the bank for me was Cox cable raising my basic cable, internet and phone bill from $156 to $216. The Tivo at $15 a month is worth it because it is easy to use, has a large capacity DVR and applications like Amazon Prime that are not duplicated on my Apple TV 3.
  14. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    Excellent info Mike, thanks. I had a great deal pending on a nib Time Capsule but the guy wouldn't return my messages. I guess it wasn't the right thing for my future setup anyway. Right off the bat, I doubt I'd a fully capable NAS like you mention but I would think a regular USB HD that has enough "NAS" in it so that I didn't need to have the computer running all the time would be nice. I started shopping for the MyCloud this morning but I saw a lot of gripes from customers on those boxes. The app disappeared (not that I would need it but thats a weird thing happening there), it never shuts off, choking on files bigger than 1GB, etc. There's a lot more good reviews than bad, and I've found the people who have problems sometimes don't do things right and then take to Amazon to gripe about the "bad product". I'm still looking into it.

    Based on your good results I started shopping for a flat antenna. I found that GetChannels recommended the Moho Leaf, which has a very capable model for about $50-60 and I can get it at any Home Depot or Walmart here.
    That cable bill sucks, frankly. I thought we were bad at $130/month.
  15. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2014
    You guys have provided a lot of info and helped me narrow things down. I think.

    I've narrowed it down to two approaches, and any help you can give me to make a choice would be great.

    Two options to cut the cable
  16. Albert2000 macrumors newbie


    Jan 1, 2016
    Yup - a good choice. Be sure to get one with an inline RF amplifier. An additional amplifier in series can help. Just get a decent one. The PCT units are good. About 15 dB of additional gain. Every 3 dB doubles the amplification. BUT a crummy signal will just be an amplified crummy signal.

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